This post is part 2 of 2 posts on the Beacon report.
I recently wrote about attending the release of Beacon DC’s Building Inclusive Ecosystems with Intentionality report. I was happy but not surprised to see that certification was highlighted as a major resource for women business owners which is underutilized by area businesses. In fact, I’ve received questions about the process so frequently, I’ve started blogging FAQs I receive from women business owners I talk to like what is certification and how do I start. Based on similar concerns raised by entrepreneurs in their focus groups, Beacon’s report recommends that resource providers Increase Visibility of Women Owned Businesses through Certifications, Streamlined Business Directories, and Community Campaigns to Help Them Align with Customers. The report cited the complexity and opacity of current resource offerings in the certification space and the need to localize supplier diversity efforts.
At the event I found myself nodding my head in agreement and had the pleasure of referring to the report in my introductions to fellow attendees. “The report recommends that women entrepreneurs maximize certification. That’s what I do.” I was also energized to find allies in some of the projects I would like to accomplish to make maximizing certification easier for women business owners. Here are some of my ideas on how to bring transparency to the opportunities and leverage the focus on women that align with Beacon’s strategies and complement their vision.
Provide Resources and Support – Mentorship. One of the recommendations for the category of resources and support was to leverage an existing mentorship platform to connect women business owners in and outside their existing networks. Mentors and mentees will be matched according to areas of expertise and needs. Entrepeneurs with questions about certification could be matched to mentors with experience in that space.
Provide Resources and Support – Replace “one size fits all” models with designs that respond to unique business needs: Recommendations in this category included ecosystem mapping and coordinated marketing efforts. I’ve often thought that a decision tree or journey map for entrepreneurs at different stages of their business would be helpful. That map could drill down into specific certifications so business owners could determine which certification, if any, a business should pursue. The SBA has a version and the idea could be expanded for business owners looking at various certification types.
New Business Opportunities – Help Women Owned Businesses Support Each Other through Business to Business and Skills Exchange Opportunities: One of the big challenges after becoming certified is actually having the bandwidth to service a large contract. If companies came together to bid as contractors/sub-contractors they could have a larger offering. This could take the form of a branded referral group, prime/sub-contractor relationships, strategic alliances, or joint ventures.
I hope to be able to work on these throughout the next year and help women take some of that money off the table.